Krzysztof Wodiczko, City Projections – Nelson’s Column, 1985
Commissioned to make a projection onto Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Sqaure for two nights in 1985, Krzysztof Wodiczko focused on the military aspects of the square and decided to project an image of a missile wrapped in barbed wire. But while in London for the event, Wodiczko realised that the square, as home of South Africa House, also played host to a longterm protest against the apartheid regime still very much in charge of South Africa and supported by then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Redirecting his projector, Wodiczko changed the image…
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (It’s a small world), 1990
If art reflects and comments on the world around us then it’s not surprising that it also has the potential to change minds. There are lots of artists whose work engages with political issues with the aim of helping bring about social change. And while I’m on a text theme it makes sense to think about some of those who use text directly to get their message across.
Barbara Kruger’s work draws on her own background in design and particularly in the magazine business. In her work, Kruger combines black and white photographs – often from magazines that promote the lifestyle she critiques – combined with text on a red ground. It’s a simple formula but it’s also a powerful one.
To a greater or lesser extent, the destruction of the past is an on-going, universal project. Whether it’s demolishing old buildings to make space for new ones or cutting down woodland to accommodate agriculture on an industrial scale, we can’t ever really let things be. If we never destroyed anything, the world would be an even more weird, uncomfortable and overcrowded place but nonetheless there’s often more to our reluctance to let things go than simple nostalgia. In the last half century or thereabouts, China has witnessed wholesale destruction of its history in the name of both ideology – the Cultural Revolution – and, more recently, progress, as the past is razed to make room for the future. Nonetheless, Ai Weiwei’s destruction of ancient ceramics in the name of art might seem in some respects excessive. It certainly has the power to shock though perhaps one of the most surprising aspects is that the value of what one might assume to be priceless ancient artefacts such as a Neolithic urn dating from 5000-3000BC can be increased by the addition of a Coca-Cola logo.